As It Happens

107-year-old social media sensation remembered for attending virtual mass in every Irish county

Nancy Stewart was among the oldest people still living in Ireland, and the oldest woman still living in her own home. She died on Friday at 107.

Nancy Stewart, also known as Granny Nancy, brought some laughter to people during the pandemic

Nancy Stewart, right, missed going to church during the pandemic, so she started attending virtual mass this year. She was among the oldest people in the country when she died at 107. (Submitted by Louise Coughlan)

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Nancy Stewart was disappointed when COVID-19 restrictions kept her from attending mass, so she started attending online services.

But she didn't limit her attendance to her local church. Instead, she went to mass in all of Ireland's 32 counties, as well as in places including Rome, New York and London — and her online fans followed her on her journey. 

Stewart, who was referred to by many as Granny Nancy, died in her home Friday. She was 107 and was among the oldest people in Ireland.

Tens of thousands of people watched Stewart's funeral online yesterday. 

"It's amazing and inspiring that this one person can have such a great impact on so many people and draw them in," her granddaughter Louise Coughlan told As It Happens host Carol Off. 

"People pass by in our lives and you see them and then they're gone. But ... to engage with us ... and then to find the funeral ... there's no words for what that means to me personally."

Coughlan moved in with her grandmother last year in Clonard, a village west of Dublin, to take care of her during the pandemic. 

Together, they made a Facebook page where they'd record themselves doing things such as baking. Stewart also spoke publicly about the importance of hand washing, and warned against panic-buying toilet paper. 

Louise Coughlan (left) and her grandmother Nancy Stewart made a Facebook page during the pandemic where they recorded themselves live and gave viewers advice, like making sure to put their feet up and have a cup of tea and biscuit. (Submitted by Louise Coughlan)

Some of Stewart's other memorable videos include her asking the President of Ireland to give her a call — as well as advice for what she called the 'Real Housewives of Ireland.' 

"Granny said she was a 'Real Housewife of Ireland' and oh, my God, it was so funny," Coughlan said.

"It brought us through a lot of dark times and a lot of quiet times in the house."

And others in Ireland felt the same, making Stewart a social media sensation.

Stewart was also woman of faith, and around Christmas, Coughlan said the pair decided to go on a virtual road trip and attend mass in a different county each week.

She loved her faith and really believed that there's something beyond this world we're just building toward ... and we just have to hang in there when things get tough."​​​​​​- Louise Coughlan

"Every mass we watched, she was in it. Like the priest said, 'Good morning, everyone,' and Granny would be like, 'Good morning, Father.' It just was the cutest thing ever."

When Stewart lost her husband in a car accident, her granddaughter said she turned to mass. Then when Stewart lost her twin daughters, she kept going to mass.

"That was the thing that inspired me most, because we all know what it's like to be knocked about by life," Coughlan said. "You'd never want to lose your kids, but she kept going. And that was the thing, you know, keep your faith."

While Coughlan misses her grandmother, she is also proud to have spent the last year with her and see the positive effect she had on people around the world. 

"She loved her faith and really believed that there's something beyond this world we're just building toward ... and we just have to hang in there when things get tough."

Written by Mehek Mazhar. Interview with Louise Coughlan produced by Katie Geleff.



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